Struggling With Lymphedema? Physical Therapy Can Provide Relief From Your Pain
Do parts of your body feel swollen, tight, or hard to the touch? You might have a condition called lymphedema.
Your lymphatic system is part of your circulatory system, and it is a network of vessels that carry lymph fluid towards the heart. The lymphatic system is an essential part of your immune and circulatory systems.
Lymphedema is categorized as a swelling condition that typically occurs in the upper or lower extremities, due to an excessive buildup of lymph fluid.
When a blockage happens in your lymphatic system, swelling of your arms or legs typically occurs, as the fluid is not able to drain properly. Improper drainage results in a build-up of the lymph fluid in your arms and legs, which can generate serious health risks.
If you are suffering from lymphedema, don’t wait any longer to see a professional about your pain. This condition can present possible health risks when it is left untreated! Contact Moon Physical Therapy today and request an appointment; let us help you find the relief you deserve.
Symptoms of lymphedema
There are two categories of lymphedema: primary lymphedema and secondary lymphedema.
Primary lymphedema occurs on its own or is inherited. Secondary lymphedema occurs as a result of an alternative disease or condition. Oftentimes, secondary lymphedema occurs after treatments for cancer.
Lymphedema also can be the result of surgical treatment involving the lymph nodes. It is most common in surgical cancer treatments where the lymph nodes are damaged or removed entirely.
The cause of primary lymphedema isn’t always obvious. Your primary care physician may want to take additional imaging tests in order to look at your lymphatic system as well as rule out other possible conditions. These tests may include an MRI scan, CT scan, Doppler ultrasound, or lymphoscintigraphy.
The most common causes of secondary lymphedema include:
- Radiation treatment for cancer
There are also a handful of symptoms that accompany lymphedema that could serve as indicators that you may have developed this condition. It can sometimes take months (or even years) for lymphedema to develop as a result of cancer treatment.
Usually symptoms occur in the arms and legs. Pain levels range from mild (noticing subtle changes or feelings in your limbs) to severe (noticing extreme changes or feelings in your limbs, to the point where they may be difficult to use).
Some common symptoms to look out for include, but are not limited to:
- Restricted range of motion
Treatment for lymphedema
Aquatic physical therapy is a great intervention to utilize in the treatment of lymphedema. Treatment focuses on stimulating the deep lymphatics, important in increasing lymphatic flow, and in many situations aquatic-based interventions are performed with greater ease to the patient as compared to land based interventions. The physical properties of water, buoyancy, viscosity, hydrostatic pressure and temperature benefits the patient in a variety of ways:
- Buoyancy, or the body’s tendency to float, makes movement more comfortable.
- The viscosity of the water, or the resistance, creates a better balanced workout btw all muscle groups and helps to strengthen weak muscles faster without increasing pain, and in turn lends to encouraged mobility in the central lymphatic system.
- The warmth of the water stimulates and relaxes muscles, which increases range of motion and flexibility. Hot water should be avoided with edema.
- The hydrostatic pressure acts like a substitute for a compression garment/sleeve (no need to wear sleeve) and helps to reduce edema. Stress is also reduced when an individual with lymphedema is in the water.
In short, the movements in the water are resistive, assistive/supportive, compressive, massaging, relaxing and comforting.
Start Your Treatment at Moon PT
At Moon Physical Therapy in Mililani and Kailua, your physical therapist will design a customized treatment plan to treat your specific case of lymphedema. This plan will be dependent upon your physical evaluation, health history, and the severity of your symptoms. For lymphatic treatment plans, the focus will be put strongly on manual therapy and light exercises for pain relief.
Exercising the affected limb(s) often also encourages lymph fluid drainage. Water is an ideal environment for the treatment of Lymphedema and aquatic therapy can be used effectively to improve the lives of those living with this condition by reducing pain and improving strength, balance and energy levels. An exercise plan will be created by one of our Mililani and Kailua physical therapists and will involve gentle contractions of the muscles to regain function and improve your range of motion.
If you’re dealing with lymphedema and are searching for relief, your search ends here. Contact our Mililani and Kailua physical therapy office today. Moon Physical Therapy will help reduce your lymphedema symptoms and improve your daily life. Your pain-free movement starts here!